Why I Teach Business Writing Courses

Communication Crisis

There is a communication crisis in the marketplace. As individuals and organizations shift from traditional forms of communication to leverage technology, we’re seeing lots of information flowing back and forth, but much of it is ineffective, frustrating, and confusing.

There are generational preferences when it comes to communication. Baby boomers prefer a phone call, Gen-Xers would rather get an email, and Millenials like to communicate via text. These are generalizations, of course, but seem to make sense as we think about the technological evolution of the past 50 years.

With a growing virtual workforce and reliance on conference calls and email to relay communication between customers, colleagues, vendors and business partners, we need to learn the skills of effective communication or we’ll spend valuable time clarifying, restating, or fixing our communication mistakes.

We Love to Hate Email

We have a love-hate relationship with email. It’s so easy to use, and it removes a task from our to-do list so we can move on to the next thing. Once we’ve hit send, the ball is in the other person’s court – it’s up to them to respond to what was just delivered to their inbox.

Email gets a bad rap because it’s assumed communication has occurred, but oftentimes we overlook limitations in the way information was presented, forget to specify what the receiver is supposed to do, or fail to consider the image we’re presenting about who we are. Email is ineffective not because of the technology, but because of our lack of skill in leveraging the possibilities of email as a communication tool.

Beyond Email

We have similar struggles with putting together effective presentations, to the point where someone coined the phrase Death by PowerPoint! The problem is that we continue to use the tools while we complain about them without taking the time to develop an ability to use them for good.

Writing reports and proposals also takes some practice in order to make them impactful and actionable. Understanding how to inform and influence effectively doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so we have to be intentional about developing writing skills to make our expertise shine, to be taken seriously, and to get the reaction we want from all of our hard work.

Upcoming Writing Workshop

I have an upcoming Effective Business Writing workshop on Thursday, April 7th, 8:30-4:30 at the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC). Register here.

Another session is scheduled for October 27th, 2016.

I am also available to create a custom workshop for your organization, or to provide coaching for individuals or small groups. Contact me through the Cornerstone Global web site.

Meetings Don’t Have to Suck!

The Joy of Appreciative Meetings

Remember when you weScreenshot 2015-06-05 07.24.05re a kid and your parents, after busting you for some bad behavior, said something along the lines of, “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.” That’s kind of how I feel about meetings. I’m not mad that meetings are so mind-numbing and soul-sucking, but I am disappointed that we’ve all missed an opportunity to turn meetings into something life-giving and encouraging. I’m not so concerned about the number of meetings we have, but know we can do better at using meetings to focus on what is going well, celebrate successes, and build energy to pursue our goals.

In their book Appreciate Leadership, Diana Whitney, Kae Rader and Amanda Trosten-Bloom suggest

 “Get staff meetings off to a positive start by asking staff members to share stories of their best day at work in the past month.”

And

“Do a positive project debrief by asking about the ‘root causes of success.’ Ask to hear about everything that happened that make it a successful project.”

It’s all about the questions you ask. When you start a meeting asking questions that center on what went wrong and what problems need to be fixed, the tone of the meeting degenerates instantly to a focus on the negative. It’s depressing and zaps energy. The atmosphere is one of defensiveness, blame, and finding more nails to hammer in.

Appreciative meetings focus on what is going well, what went right, and what you want to see more of. This is not a head-in-the-sand, mamby-pamby approach to meeting management, but a determined effort to turn the tide of the conversation to the positive.

In Appreciative Leadership they call this the “flip” – the practice of turning a habitual problem, like employee turnover, inter-group communication, technology breakdowns, and slumping sales, into an affirmative topic to discuss:

  • Employee turnover >> employee retention
  • Inter-group communication problems >> productive collaboration
  • Technology breakdowns >> users as designers
  • Slumping sales >> new markets

Asking positive questions and flipping the conversation to what’s possible builds energy. Meetings actually become life-giving sessions where teamwork develops and solutions are nurtured together. We dread meetings because they drain us and take something away from us. Appreciative meetings address challenges and opportunities from the vantage point of what we hope for.

Try it! The next time you call a meeting, spend the first few minutes asking questions about what is going right. Allow people to share successes, whether personal or work-related, and revamp the agenda to flip the discussion to affirmative topics. I guarantee your meetings will begin to suck less and might actually be anticipated!

Explore more benefits of appreciative inquiry: